Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Game 5 Preview: Linfield Wildcats (4-0) vs Whitworth Pirates (5-1)

'Cats vs Rats...Let's get it on.
42-28. That’s the combined first half scores from the 2010 and 2011 Linfield vs Whitworth games, with Whitworth pinning up those 42 points. Thankfully, there are two halves to a football game and the ‘Cats have been able to overcome those first half deficits to take both contests but those performances tell you something. Whitworth is more than capable of competing with and out gunning the ‘Cats if Linfield isn’t on their game. This upcoming edition of Linfield vs Whitworth falls in this same category as the Rats are team with dangerous playmakers on offense and a defense that has a knack of making big plays that can turn the tide of a contest.

The Rats enter Saturday’s game with a 5-1 record after dropping a close 38-24 loss against a now undefeated Willamette squad. While this is a big game for both teams it’s do-or-die for Whitworth as a loss against Linfield will most likely knock them out of NWC title contention and any hopes of post-season play. I’m expecting a fired up and motivated Rat team that is building off the knowledge that they’ve been close to Linfield the past two seasons and probably feeling if they perform well enough, they could very well snap Linfield’s 21-game NWC winning streak.

The ‘Cats are entering the game with only playing one football game over the past three weeks. There’s two ways to look at this: 1) It’s been great for Linfield to have the two bye weeks this close together for the ‘Cats to heal up some injuries and get some extra time to work on fundamentals and scheme or 2) The ‘Cats have had the extra time but is it possible this team could be out of rhythm when they take the field this weekend? I don’t know what the right answer is but we’re soon going to find out.

The ‘Cat has had a killer front-loaded schedule and that’s reflected with Linfield holding the 3rd highest strength of schedule rating in Division 3 through week 4. There’s been one stiff competitor after the next that Linfield has taken down but it hasn’t been easy. In the long run, I truly believe those experiences are going to serve this team better than it would have if the ‘Cats have played a slate of laydowns. There are still aspects of this Linfield team that need improvement and growth but there are no weaknesses on this team or roster. Even with the injuries this lineup has endured, all the pieces are there for Linfield to do something great this season. The next rung in that ladder to climb is Saturday.

Get To Know A Wildcat
#2 Colin Forman, Safety, Junior

Favorite Place in Mac to Eat: Tequila Grill

Favorite Movie: Remember the Titans

Favorite Music: Country

Favorite TV Show: Duck Dynasty

Favorite Pro Football team: no pro team, just the ducks

Class I Most Look Forward to: financial management

Mac or PC: PC

Cpu Homepage: Google

What do you use more, Smart Phone or CPU: iPhone

Twitter or Facebook: Facebook

Car or Truck: Truck, built Ford tough

Xbox, PS3, or WII: Xbox

Favorite Coach Haze Saying: "Just a skosh"

DB with the biggest football glove collection: Logan Krellwitz

Do you have a hidden talent that folks would be surprised by: Frog Whisper

Your Favorite Part About Playing at Linfield is: The tradition and the group of guys I get to play with.

Post Linfield aspirations: Law School

Wildcat11’s Keys To Victory

4 QUARTERS of Linfield Football: As stated at the beginning of the game review, Linfield has been out performed in the 1st half of the last two seasons vs Whitworth and Linfield cannot afford to come out of the gates sluggish and sloppy. At the same time, Linfield cannot feel content in coming out of the gates on fire and feel fat and happy about that either. No, what I hope to see from Linfield on Saturday is four complete quarters of Linfield football. I’m talking about this team brining their best effort for all four quarters and not leaving any doubts about if they could have played better.

Limit mistakes and take care of the football: We’ve talked about it over and over again but Linfield has been their own worst enemy at times with ill-timed penalties and getting too loose with the football. Ball security will be paramount this weekend as it could be a wet one at the ‘Catdome and Whitworth’s defense is traditionally a team that is constantly working for strips and looking for the turnovers. If the ‘Cats can limit penalties and take care of the football then the ‘Cats chances to walk away with a solid victory increase dramatically.

Have to Control the Whitworth Run Game: Where the Rats have hurt Linfield’s defense over the past two seasons is in the passing game, but the key in slowing down Whitworth, over the course of a game, has been and will always be slowing down their run game. All you’re going to see is zone left, zone right, and counters. The Rats are led by hard charging senior running back Ronnie Thomas. Thomas is entering the game averaging 126 yards a game and 8 TD runs. He’s a hard charger that has enough speed to hit the home run. Linfield’s defense not only needs to be in good position but the ‘Cats have to be tackling at a high level.

Make plays on the football: While it’s key to contain the rushing attack the Rats are a very capable passing team. Whitworth is led by Sophomore QB Bryan Peterson who is passing for 190 yards a game and has tossed 10 TDs. Peterson’s key target is sure handed Jake DeGooyer who can get the tough yards but Austin Ehlo is the Rats deep ball guy. I expect Whitworth to take some shots deep at Linfield’s secondary where Peterson will get the ball up in the air and let Ehlo try to make plays on the ball. Linfield’s secondary must get after it when that ball is in the air.

Balanced Linfield offense: Whitworth is a defense that is a bend but don’t break group that tries to keep everything in front of them. Linfield’s offense cannot have a slow start and need to attack from the opening kickoff. I’m looking for the 'Cats to keep working that running game but be very aggressive throwing the football as Linfield should be able to throw weapon after weapon at the Whitworth secondary.

Pressure, Pressure, Pressure: The turning point of the PLU game in my opinion is when the ‘Cats started to get constant pressure on PLU’s quarterback. That has to happen again on Saturday. Peterson is a strong armed QB that can make all of the throws needed but Linfield can make his job tough if he knows that he’s going to get hit hard and often. This is a big pressure game of the ‘Cats defensive front.

3rd down offense/defense: This will be a huge down on Saturday. Whitworth is converting 3rd downs at a 41% clip on offense and giving up 3rd down conversions at a 37% rate. The ‘Cats on the other hand have to improve on 3rd down offense. Linfield is at a 35% conversion rate on offense while the ‘Cats defense has been giving up 3rd down conversions 35% of the time. If Linfield’s offense can get that conversion number in the mid 40’s and the defense can push their number in the mid 20’s, Linfield is going to have a great chance to win.


‘Cats by 10. Whitworth is a very good football team but I just feel Linfield is flat better. Like the PLU game, if the ‘Cats are sloppy and don’t execute then the ‘Cats are going to get bit on the backside and could easily drop Saturday’s game. On the flipside, Linfield can control this contest and forced their will on Whitworth if the ‘Cats are crisp and execute. I’m betting that Linfield is going to take a big step forward on their quest to another NWC title and show why this team is one of the highest regarded in Division III.

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